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Introduction to California Chaparral

Introduction to California Chaparral

Ronald D. Quinn
Sterling C. Keeley
Illustrations by Marianne D. Wallace
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Introduction to California Chaparral
    Book Description:

    The characteristic look of California Chaparral—a soft bluish-green blanket of vegetation gently covering the hills—is known to millions who have seen it as the backdrop in movies and television productions. This complex ecological community of plants and animals is not just a feature of the hills around Hollywood, but is a quintessential part of the entire California landscape. It is a highly resilient community adapted to life with recurring fires and droughts. Written for a wide audience, this concise, engaging, and beautifully illustrated book describes an ancient and exquisitely balanced environment home to wondrous organisms: Fire Beetles that mate only on burning branches, lizards that shoot blood from their eyes when threatened, Kangaroo Rats that never drink water, and seeds that germinate only after a fire, even if that means waiting in the soil for a 100 years or more. Useful both as a field guide and an introductory overview of the ecology of chaparral, it also provides a better understanding of how we might live in harmony, safety, and appreciation of this unique ecological community. * Identifies chaparral’s common plants, animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects * Features 79 color illustrations, 56 black-and-white photographs, and 3 maps * Examines the role of humans and fire in chaparral, covering the placement and design of homes, landscaping, and public policy

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93900-4
    Subjects: Botany & Plant Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xv)
    Ronald D. Quinn and Sterling C. Keeley
    (pp. 1-19)

    CHAPARRAL IS BOTH a vegetation type and the name given to the community of coadapted plants and animals found in the foothills and mountains throughout California. The chaparral vegetation is composed of a diverse assemblage of different species of evergreen drought- and fire-hardyshrubs. Seen from the car window or scenic lookout, chaparral looks like a soft bluish green blanket gently covering the hills. Up close, however, this “blanket” no longer appears soft. Instead, what is revealed is a nearly impenetrable thicket of shrubs with intertwined branches and twigs with hard leaves and stiff and unyielding stems. The shrubs are well...

    (pp. 21-41)

    CALIFORNIA CHAPARRAL IS a product of the mediterranean climate in which it grows, where summers are hot and dry and winters mild and wet. Less than three percent of the world’s land surface has a mediterranean climate. This climate type is found in California, the Mediterranean Basin, central Chile, the southern tip of Africa, and parts of Australia (map 2). Each of these areas has an evergreen shrubby vegetation commonly referred to as chaparral, maquis, garrigue, matorral, fynbos, or heath. The environmental conditions that produce a mediterranean climate result from the confluence of three factors: latitude, a cold ocean, and...

    (pp. 43-73)

    FIRE IS KEY to understanding chaparral communities. While most of the vegetation types of California are prone to fire, chaparral is particularly so. It is the large chaparral wildfires near urban areas that capture public attention, as they are experienced directly by those who live near the chaparral and indirectly by others who watch footage on television or read the news.

    Though seemingly cruel and destructive from our perspective, fire is a natural and an essential part of the life cycle of the chaparral community. Fire recycles and rejuvenates, and without fire many of the commonly observed chaparral plants and...

    (pp. 75-167)

    SHRUBS MOST CLEARLY define the chaparral. These densely intertwined, multistemmed, woody, evergreen plants make up the continuous blue green blanket that appears from a distance to gently cover the hillsides. Up close, however, the shrubs grow in nearly impenetrable stands of tough droughtand fire-hardy plants. In ecological terms shrubs are dominant, shaping the physical and biological environment for all other species. Shrubs are also what burn so fiercely during a fire. The stems and leaves that accumulate over many years provide the fuel. Shrubs appear uniform over large areas because their life cycles are restarted with every fire, so all...

    (pp. 169-249)

    ENTER CHAPARRAL and stand quietly for a moment. You are almost certain to hear the insistent, repetitive trill of a Wrentit, and the scratching sound of a California Towhee rummaging through the leaf litter in search of invertebrates. A Western Whiptail lizard may catch your eye with its jittery movements as it hurries from bush to bush, while a motionless Coast Horned Lizard will be noticed only when its tongue darts out to capture a harvesterant. A careful eye can find the footprints of a kangaroo rat and perhaps the entrance to its burrow. Examination of the base of large...

    (pp. 251-292)

    THE BEAUTY AND UTILITY of chaparral is tempered by inherent problems and dangers. The gentle plain of Santa Barbara to the Sierra foothills and the bucolic canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains all bear testimony to the power of chaparral wildfires to invade our cities and suburbs (pl. 74). In the aftermath of a chaparral wildfire on steep terrain, the bare steep slopes become unstable. Heavy winter rains can quickly create a massive slug of water, mud, and debris peppered with boulders that surges uncontrollably down slopes and canyons into settled areas. These viscous flash floods can materialize suddenly and...

    (pp. 293-298)
    (pp. 299-302)
    (pp. 303-304)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 305-322)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 323-328)